Rafael Corkidi  

Mexican director or cinematographer of most of the Mexican surrealist movies of the 70s, including Jodorowsky's movies, after which he made a series of short rare movies and documentaries and faded into obscurity. His trademarks include a penchant for open, stark or desolate natural scenery and settings, including ruins and poor villages, and heavy usage of religious symbolism. His own movies often empathize with poor and downtrodden Mexicans, and attempt at raising national pride and solidarity. In addition to his own movies, this page also lists other movies he was involved in as cinematographer. Died in 2013.

Of Some Interest

Angels and Cherubs  
Supposedly a lost movie now but there are still rare copies floating around. This is a surrealist, ponderous artistic movie on paradise lost, with themes of difficult love and religion. The costumes, scenery and visually striking production are what you would expect from Corkidi, a mixture of desolate spaces, castles and uniquely extravagant and bizarre costumes. It starts and ends with naked children as Adam and Eve in a cliched paradise of waterfalls, beaches and naturally available food, with explosive fruit and burning trees symbolizing the fall from grace. The rest of the movie then explores a love between two youngsters and their disapproving parents. They are constantly surrounded and hindered by ritual, etiquette, artificial social obstacles, religion and the mystical, and only a desolate wilderness seems to provide a haven for uninhibited expression. Surreal touches constantly hover, including a praying Jew in a cage, symmetrical rows of nuns, an endless meal served with painful repetitive ritual which is never eaten, a religious puppet show, and nonsensical plot twists involving raising the dead, vampires and horror.

Directed by the poet/artist Gelsen Gas with Corkidi as cinematographer, all of who were part of a provocative and surreal artistic movement that included Jodorowsky. This experimental film is a series of existential vignettes, some comical, some surreal, some artistic, all existentially exploring the modern life of a young man using minutiae and moments, backed by an experimental soundtrack. A group of obstructing children become a flock of geese, he talks to a policeman using bubble-noises, a local business keeps charging him absurd fees and commissions, a bus ride becomes a sexually charged symphony of thighs, rumps and glances, large construction machinery serves as a backdrop while poetry on the soul is recited, factory machinery creates flowers, a supermarket visit becomes a frenzied burst of consumerism, meaningless numbers are intoned at his dehumanized job, and so on until he meets and falls in love with a pretty and naturally serene woman. The last part of the movie shifts to some experimental video-art montages and symbolism, such as death symbolized by people walking into a pool of water, but then we are shown that this life is merely a movie watched on screen by an audience, thus evoking a sudden provocative jolt of audience involvement. An interesting experiment.

Mansion of Madness, The (AKA Dr. Tarr's Torture Dungeon)  
From the maker of Alucarda comes this wild story of a lunatic asylum run by lunatics inspired by Edgar Allan Poe. A Mexican production that features connections to Jodorowsky, it looks like the costume designer was given some LSD. A reporter goes to visit an unusual lunatic asylum to report on its unusual practices and discovers chaos. People run around in soldiers uniforms, perform cult and satanic rituals, act like chickens, run around naked, perform entertaining dances, climb into strange buildings and artifacts, and others are tortured. The reporter soon finds that he cannot leave and he is falling in love with a mysterious girl. Weird but clumsy, and with a penchant for slapstick.

One Who Came from Heaven, The  
As was popular with many Surrealists, Corkidi employs the Christ-allegory in this slow-moving symbolic movie. The hero of the people is Anapu, who extracts water from a rock, befriends, baptises and makes out with Mary Magdalene, consoles the downtrodden, makes peace with fighting brothers, raises the dead, licks men and women clean, etc. In between, he does a lot of soul-searching wandering through the country-side, mingling with the various common folk and natives and discussing their problems, upcoming dangers and their lack of unity, the locals frequently breaking out in ethnic song and dance. In the meantime a fascistic military man and his girlfriend track him down as the powers that be, accompanied by a warped version of the star-spangled banner, leading to a strange nude-seductive betrayal. Reminiscent of a Glauber Rocha movie. Not as visually rich as his other movies and mostly dull. A meditative and symbolic folksy-cum-mystical outing.


Impenetrable and bizarre mobius strip of surrealist scenes gradually turning into a Mexican drama. It's as if someone filmed a Mexican soap episode while under the influence of both Christian guilt and a dose of LSD. The result is snippets of a family drama involving a rebellious son coming home to his depressing home village, his father, and a jaded ex-lover, mixed with scenes of a treatment and burial of a Christ-like figure, a masturbating nun who frequently goes to the toilet, an angel with a whip, a suffering priest, the four horsemen, lots of nudity and artsy representations of lust, strange sets and costumes in a desert or amidst ruins, a group of mean circus performers in the desert drawing the attention of a village girl, and some pretentious narration making poetic statements about sin. Add to this a wide variety of songs during which the actors lip-sync regardless of their gender. The near-plotless, non-linear structure is seemingly supposed to evoke some kind of poetic portrait of desires, sin, lust, passions, religiosity, guilt, suffering and humanity, but the experience is very tedious instead.

Figures of the Passion  
Sort of in-between Corkidi's artistic documentaries and his surreal movies, this poetic ode of a film is a tribute to the forgotten and disappeared people of Mexico and the mothers and wives they left behind. It starts and ends with strikingly surreal visual images of people bearing crosses and women with pictures of their lost ones hanging over their necks, or a woman crucified in a urinal under a big Pepsi sign, while the narration recites its tribute in poetry. But the majority of the movie consists of a play within the movie that mixes the stories of people like Salome, Christ, Pilate and Herod in a symbolic episodic play about the people versus the powers that be. Christ is acted by an average Joe in a moustache and cap, while the power is in a suit, and the women are acted by crude cross-dressers or a nuanced puppet. The play is delivered in a building that is falling apart, decorated with props and crosses, and at one point, it even rains on them while they continue the play. I found the whole thing extremely heavy-handed and pretentious in its crude Christ allegories however, despite the atmosphere and Corkidi's undeniable talent at settings and cinematography.

Pafnucio Santo  
A dark-caped spirit and a boy called Pafnucio Santo are searching for an appropriate woman to bear the next Messianic child. This backdrop is the pseudo-mystical excuse to film a series of symbolic scenes full of historical figures and archetypes, most of which lip-sync to classical opera. A grand (pretentious) operatic-cum-surrealistic view of humanity is portrayed with Corkidi's flair for using a striking blend of costumes and natural landscapes or old ruins. There's also a group of American football players practicing in the ruins, and the kid is dressed in a similar outfit, symbolizing something or another... We see Adam and Eve and their embarrassment over nudity, Jewish mothers and children led to a concentration camp in the desert, Hernando Cortez singing in a pig-sty, Romeo and Juliet, Jesus, French and Mexican revolutionaries, etc etc. They mostly sing, and the child wanders from one female archetype to another, trying to recruit them and judge their qualifications, including a dancing naked primitive in the desert, a housewife, a forest maiden, a revolutionary with a machine gun, and others. Not so much a movie as a musical lip-sync opera set to a sequence of pretentious surreal scenes with striking visuals.

1999- by The Worldwide Celluloid Massacre Table of Contents